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Career Advice

25 Tips to Help You Hack Your Career

Posted by Emily Moore

November 26, 2018

Oh, Reddit. We can always count on you to provide us with crowdsourced wisdom. Whether it’s instructions on how to fix a leaky sink, get six-pack abs or even solve a Rubik’s cube, there’s no shortage of valuable nuggets of information from people who have been there and done that. And naturally, that includes career advice too. But with such a deluge of knowledge available, who has the time to sort through what’s useful and what’s not?

Luckily for you, we’ve done the legwork this time. Below are a collection of some of the best career pointers from Reddit’s r/lifeprotips as they relate to the job search, navigating a new job, workplace communication and more. Read on, and prepare to hack your way to greatness.

Job Search Tips

1. "If you're unemployed or underemployed, start volunteering."

Of course, you’ll want to still engage in all the regular job seeking activities — filling out applications, scheduling informational interviews, etc. — but volunteering can be a great way to expand and tap your network for new opportunities. As the original poster of this tip says, “I joined my local Firehouse two years ago and have met hundreds of people through the firehouse itself, trainings, social events and they all want to look out for one another and help. I have a job, but I've seen many many people get an ‘in’ for jobs that they may not have had [otherwise]!”

2. “Write ‘Negotiable’ for Salary Desired in Job Application.”

At this early of a stage in the application process, you need to be careful about what you share around salary expectations. You certainly don’t want to price yourself out of a job opportunity, but you don’t want to sell yourself short either. Putting “negotiable” right in the application lets a recruiter know that you’ll be willing to work with them to find a salary that works for both of you.


3. "Before submitting a cover letter, do a search for the word ‘can’ and change it to ‘will’."

This may seem like a minuscule change, but according to this tip’s original poster, this simple trick “will help employers already start picturing you as an employee while they are reading it… it prompts your potential employer [to] picture you as a member of the company instead of thinking about what you might be able to do.”

Tips on Navigating a New Job

4. “When you start a new job, ask for a copy of your future performance review sheet.”

Everyone wants to make a good impression when they start out at a new company. What better way to do that than going off of the criteria you’ll be eventually judged against anyway? Bonus: “after some time has passed, and you've acquired new job responsibilities, you can show your supervisor your job description and then provide a list of your additional tasks in order to negotiate a raise,” says the original poster.

5. "If you're just starting a new job, know that the first week or so will be an emotional roller coaster. But trust that it will all get better soon when things settle in."

The new job jitters can hit hard, but don’t automatically assume that leaving your old company was a mistake, or that you’ll never be happy at your new one. Give it at least a few months before you decide how you feel about a newer position.

6. "When you start a new job make sure to keep the job description. That way you can easily update your [resume] or LinkedIn with the new job at a later date."

Even if you’re in love with your new job, you never know when a great new opportunity will come up, so hold onto those job descriptions. You won’t want to copy it verbatim — besides being poor form, it’ll likely fail to cover the full scope of your accomplishments — but an original job description can serve as a great reference to make sure that you’re highlighting all the key responsibilities of your position to potential employers.

Communication Tips

7. “When making an argument, a single strong point is better than one strong point and multiple weak points. Weak points become targets and weaken your entire position.”

It can be tempting to throw everything you’ve got at the wall to see what sticks, but this is actually a counterproductive move. Keep this in mind whether you’re trying to make the case for a particular business decision, asking for a promotion or any other instance in which you have to convince a colleague to see things your way.

8. “A real, effective apology has three parts: (1) Acknowledge how your action affected the person; (2) say you're sorry; (3) describe what you're going to do to make it right or make sure it doesn't happen again. Don't excuse or explain.”

There’s no way around it — everyone messes up at work at some point. But if you have an effective damage control strategy, you don’t need to sweat it too much. Just keep this apology format on hand to help things return to normal as soon as possible if and when you eventually need it.

9. “When overloaded at work, ask your boss to help you prioritize your tasks, even if you already know what the priorities are.”

“Telling your boss you are overloaded can bring with it negative connotations such as: you are bad at prioritizing, bad at time management, or just slow,” says the original poster of this piece of advice. “A more tactful way is to... [create] a list of all your major tasks and prioritize them. Then go to your manager and ask them to verify the priorities as you have outlined... This lets them see on paper that you have a lot on your plate. This also lets them know you are thinking ahead and that you are practicing prioritization skills.”

10. “When busy, thank customers for their patience, instead of apologizing for the delay.”

Sorry is a word that we tend to rely on entirely too often. Flipping the script like this helps stop the epidemic of over-apologizing and serves as a nice compliment to whomever you’re talking to — now that’s a win-win.

11. “Write every email as if they will get forwarded on to the CEO.

It’s easy to fire off a one-sentence email without thinking much about spelling, grammar, tone or even content, but while it may be a timesaver, it can come back to haunt you. Taking a couple of minutes to review what you’ve said and how you’ve said it can not only prevent an email snafu — it can also improve your standing in the eyes of your colleagues.

12. “Use the phrase ‘My understanding was…’ instead of ‘I assumed…'

“Telling your supervisor you ‘assumed’ something typically results in a reprimand,” says this tip’s original poster. On the other hand, “saying ‘My understanding was…’" will instead be attributed to a miscommunication or a lack of clarity in their original instructions.”

13. “I find the best way to communicate 'how' to do something is to explain *why* it's done like that. The inclusion of 'why' creates a mental framework to understand what someone is doing rather than just correctly following steps.

How-tos can be a bit overwhelming. With so much information to distill in such a short amount of time, the person you’re teaching often feels pressured to memorize everything you’re saying. But much more important than rote memorization is processing and understanding the task as a whole — and when you provide a ‘why,’ you allow this to happen much more naturally than if you were to just recite the process step by step.

14. “When you are writing a professional email, leave the To: field blank until you have checked it over and are completely ready to send.

Want a sure-fire way to guarantee that email mishaps are a thing of the past? Wait to fill out who you’ll be sending the email to until you’re certain that the body of the email is in tip-top shape.

15. “When telling a boss about a problem, propose at least one solution to resolve it. It will show that you are working to resolve it instead of just passing the buck.

Ever afraid that you ask too many questions? This is the perfect solution for you — it allows you to gut-check your response with your manager while still coming off as the thoughtful, proactive rockstar that you are.

Productivity Tips

16. “If you're already having a terrible day, do as many things that you've been dreading that you can.

“At a certain level of bad day, you're unlikely to feel much worse,” says the original poster of this comment. “After you complete your tasks, you'll feel better, or you'll at least keep those things from ruining another day.”

17. “When writing a thesis or a scientific paper, don't end your day with a completed section. Write at least one or two sentences into the next topic to make it easier for your future self to continue writing the next day.

Don’t let the terms “thesis” and “scientific paper” throw you off — this piece of advice isn’t just for college students. If you’re working on a deck, plan or even substantive email that you can’t finish all in one sitting, writing a little bit extra beyond a clean break can help you organize your thoughts and jump right back into it whenever you’re ready.

18. “Follow the 2-minute rule. If it only takes 2 minutes to do, just do it.

Few feelings are worse than heading home from the office and realizing you forgot to complete a bunch of small, easy tasks. Get these quick but urgent to-dos out of the way as soon as you possibly can to avoid having them pile up, or worse, be forgotten. As a perk, crossing these off your list can give you just the feeling of accomplishment that you need to ride a wave of productivity.

19. “Dress well even for the small things- If you look good, you'll feel good. Feel good, you'll do well. Do well, you'll succeed.

The confidence that comes with looking your best gives you a serious advantage towards whatever you’re trying to accomplish — so when faced with an important task, do as Barney from How I Met Your Mother so often says, and “Suit up!”

20. “When you go back to work after having a good amount of time off ([maternity] leave, vacation, surgery, etc) don't ever go back on a Monday, instead start back up on a Wednesday or Thursday.

Coming back from a long break is a big transition — make it easier on yourself by starting with a shorter workweek. Jumping into the middle of the week also means that you likely won’t be expected to complete as many end-of-week deadlines, which can help you gradually ramp up to your normal workload.

Miscellaneous Tips

21. “Running late to work in the morning? Stop and grab donuts. Then you're not the guy who's running late, you're the guy who grabbed everyone breakfast.

Don’t make a habit of it, but honestly… who can be mad at the guy or gal that brings in donuts?

22. “Don't recommend a friend for a job unless you've seen them work or you are willing to risk both relationships. A good friend isn't always a good worker.

It may be tempting to go after that referral bonus, but, as the original poster of this tip points out, “Someone who is a good friend doesn't necessarily translate to someone who has a strong work ethic. Recommending them only for them to mess up reflects badly on you and could ruin the friendship and your relationship with the employer.”

23. “When trying to solve a computer error code by doing a google search, include the word ‘solved’ in your search.

Get on IT’s good side by solving your problems for yourself whenever possible. That way, when you really do need them, they won’t think you’re just crying wolf.

24. “If you're a manager at work, keep some ‘get well soon’ and ‘congratulations’ cards in your desk for your team to sign. Opportunity will arise.

“After four and a half years of management I have 14 people on my team, and it's astonishing how often someone goes on medical leave or has a baby,” says the original poster. Stockpiling cards at the office like this is a great way to ensure that you don’t forget to buy them at the last minute when they’re truly needed. Trust us — your team will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

25. “Treat your own time off work as if it was your second job and you are the project. Invest in [yourself] by doing things to learn new skills, give you a sense of accomplishment, and make you happy. You work hard for someone else's business; work just as hard to make your happiness your business.

Work is a big part of your life, but it’s not the only part of your life. To truly be fulfilled, you need to make the best of the two-thirds of the time you don’t spend at the office. Vegging out on the couch and binge-watching Netflix has its time and place, but don’t forget to balance that with meaningful and enriching activities.

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